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The Model

I think its sad sometimes that when someone makes a commitment to follow Christ that we don’t offer them a class in how to pray. It may seem too basic or simple but I think it’s an important piece of our spiritual maturity that is often overlooked or just assumed.

Knowing how to pray is not that easy sometimes. It can be intimidating, daunting, scary… “what if I say something dumb… wrong… unbiblical…” In Luke, chapter 11, the disciples asked Jesus “Lord, teach us to pray…” He then gave them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. But before we get to that in Matthew 6:5-8 he gives a little more pre-instruction.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Basically, what He is saying here is we need to have the right mind-set or heart-set not only for what we are praying for but how and why we are praying. Don’t be boastful or prideful in our prayers proclaiming our great works or sinlessness so that others can see how holy we are. The only one that could even claim this was Jesus and even He did not pray that way. So, prepare yourself or your heart for prayer.

As we’ll see, it’s not so much the words spoken as the the motivation for speaking them. There are no magic words. You also don’t have to use big confusing words or King James English. You don’t have to use your “prayer voice.” Just pray, from the heart.

Jesus then says: “This, then, is how you should pray:” He doesn’t say word for word but “HOW” as in here is a model for you to design your prayers around.

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” -Luke 11:2-4 KJV

So let’s break this down.

“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…” This set the stage for us. We first need to proclaim and acknowledge God’s rightful place. Above all else He is first and foremost. Hallowed means to honor as holy or consider sacred.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” Here’s where things get a little tough for us. Before we even ask anything we have to realize God has a plan that is bigger than all of us and that plan has a direction. What this really means is no matter what I pray for, not my will but Your will be done. That’s a hard one to say and mean. Because God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want them answered. Don’t misunderstand me here, He always answers prayers. His answers are either yes, no or wait. Now, of course, yes is the easy one I’m not even going to talk about that. No, that one’s certainly hard to take. We want that illness to go away, we want people healed, hurts mended, problems fixed but that just might not be God’s will. In the end, He knows what is best and how things should and will work out so in order for His will to be done sometimes the answer has to be no. And wait? well that one certainly stinks too but it all happens in His timing not ours. Gods will comes before our want.

“Give us day by day our daily bread.” Ok, finally the good stuff! The “gimmes.” We usually get this one in the wrong order. We want to say “Father in heaven, gimme my daily bread…” but our wants need to take their proper place because remember “Thy will be done…” not “my will be done…” Notice too He says “day by day” or sometimes it’s “this day” Keep it simple, “Lord, here’s what’s on my heart right now…” Here’s a little hint though, He already knows what weighs heavy on our hearts I think sometimes He just wants us to say it so that we realize it too. Stating it sometimes makes it more real for us. I know I have a tendency to kind of sweep things under the rug or ignore the elephant in the room. So, “here is what I’m asking, Lord”

“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” Now the first part here is pretty obvious the second part is yet another thing we often forget. We are to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. That’s a tough one to remember but probably more important than asking His forgiveness for sins He has already forgiven by dying on the cross for us in the first place.

“And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” God will not lead us into temptation as we commonly think of it. The word temptation can also mean trial or affliction and we will be met with trials and sometimes afflictions along the way and we need to pray for protection against them or the strength to avoid temptations/trials/afflictions. A strength that can only come from God. And through this strength we will be delivered from the evil that can drag us into embracing that temptation.

So, there we go. Keep this in mind when you pray as a model for what, when and how to say it and you may find more focus in your prayer life. I feel like I have.


I hate these things…

Ok, here’s the thing, I hate to do what I am about to do. I know that’s a weird way to open a post but here it is.

I’m going back to Peru this year, August 17th – 24th. Going again really wasn’t a hard decision. When it comes down to it, Jesus laid out a pretty simple plan for us, didn’t He? Love God, love others. Nope, deciding to go was easy. Paying for it however, does present a bit of a challenge.

(Here comes the part I hate) I am seeking financial support to fund this trip. The Ridge Church is so committed to sending people on mission that they are paying up to 50% of the cost, for members, through their missions fund. Those of us going are responsible for the other 50% which comes to around $1,200. The truth is that I don’t like the idea of asking anyone for anything, especially money. I also feel weird sending out letters and posts pretending this is just the latest in a long chain of correspondence we’ve kept up oh these many years. But, I also don’t happen to have a spare $1,200 dollars just lying around.

Last year I went on this same trip. You can read about it here and here. At that time a lot of people were probably thinking “Rick is going on a mission trip? Really? Rick Phillips?!?” That’s a completely fair thought. Honestly, I kept thinking the same thing. Then I went and God really changed my life through the experience.

I know I’m not the first person people think of when it comes to loving on others. Plus, just like everyone else, I’m busy. My life is really intense right now and this is just not a good time to go on a mission trip. But I’m not sure if there is ever a “good time” to go on a mission trip. And I could probably come up with a list of reasons why I shouldn’t go, but I keep coming back to the one reason I should – Love God, love others.

Since my experience last year, I’ve been trying to live my life more “on mission”. I mean it’s easy to pray for people, but to really love the people who you live with, work with and encounter everyday is a challenge. This trip helped me to experience this in action, to see things more clearly and to see Christ’s love in action more clearly. This past year I’ve been trying to see my life as a mission field, not just that trip. And it’s been cool to see the way God has used this new approach to everything from the way I tip at restaurants to the way I treat people in traffic. But now, it’s time to take another leap of faith and go back.

So this is where you come in. Instead of selling my plasma 87 times, I’ve decided to ask for something I don’t usually ask for, money from people I don’t often write or talk to. It would be a real blessing if you could help financially support me on this mission trip. A little, a lot, any would be great. You can do this electronically through the options in the right hand column of this blog or by check made out to Rick Phillips sent to : 4998 Clayton Rd. Brookville, OH 45309. And if you want to know more about the trip, please let me know and maybe we can have lunch and discuss it (you may have to cut me off though, I have a tendency to go on about it.)

The one thing I have no problem asking for is for your prayers. Whether you can give or not I would truly appreciate it if you would pray about the trip. Not just for me, but for the others that will be going and for those we will be reaching out to. As much as God loves mission trips, other people don’t. There will be a whole host of obstacles that pop up and entangle themselves around our ankles as we prepare to go love the people of Peru. And knowing that you are praying would mean more than any and all of the financial support in the world.

Thanks for reading this rambling post, God bless you.

-Rick


Church: Body or Building?

I have often heard the following statements, or something similar: “The church should provide for others, the church should help the poor and unfortunate, the church should be a safe haven for others, the church should teach about God’s word, the church needs to welcome people, the church needs to love people.” I’m sure you have a list of your own and have heard many other ideas of what the church should do. I have to say I COULDN’T AGREE MORE to most of these.

The problem lies in the definition of church. So here’s a little pop-quiz. I know I didn’t give you time to study, sorry. From the definitions of church below, taken from dictionary.com which would Jesus say is the correct answer:

a.) A building for public Christian worship.
b.) Public worship of God or a religious service in such a building: to attend church regularly.
c.) The clerical profession or calling: After much study and contemplation, he was prepared to enter the church.
d.) The church is a body of believers.

Now let’s keep in mind that dictionary.com or anything else on the internet are not the best way to gather knowledge however this seems to be where we learn from these days. This information is a representation of what is being taught or what has already been learned in the world today. The dictionary people don’t just make this stuff up as they see fit. They poll people and research with “experts” to determine the best definition(s) possible. So, where did they get this from? US. We (followers of Christ) have allowed these definitions to creep in and define us. We have taken on these views and definitions of church. We have twisted and perverted church into something it is not supposed to be.

Before we go any further, let me be clear. I’m not talking about the way we worship on Sundays or any other time your body chooses to worship. That is not church. Church is not a “DO”. Church is a “BE”. We should BE church.

By the way, if you didn’t catch it yet d.) should have been the correct answer. A church is a body of believers. Yes, it’s that simple. Now a body is designed for motion or activity. What happens to a sedentary body? It gets fat and it grows weak. A body that is not doing what it is designed for eventually becomes ineffective.

So where do you fit here? Do you “DO” church on the weekends or when its convenient or are you the hands and feet of Jesus? Christ commands and commissions us in Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” While the Bible never specifically says we are to be “hands and feet” it does does call us (followers of Christ, the church) to go out and preach the gospel and with the words “go into” comes action… and with action we use our hands and feet. If our “body” is in motion it is doing what it was designed to do.

So with the same thinking where does your “church” fall? Does your church “go into the world”? Does it “GO” anywhere other than into a building at the designated times of worship? Well if not you should leave, right? Well, don’t start packing your bags just yet. Remember we’re using the Biblical definition of church. So if you are a part of this body of believers, aren’t you in part responsible for it’s actions? I don’t mean responsible as in to blame for its inaction but responsible to the body to be a part of and facilitate action. The body is at fault, right? You are a part of the body, right? It starts with you. Please, please, please don’t just leave the church/body of which you are a part. See if you, as part of that body can enact change, if it needs to happen. Find other parts of your body to help out. Work together to figure out how to carry this out. If you start this others will come along, trust me. Now if you meet resistance from within and just can’t move things in the direction of Christ then and only then should you consider a move. Just because things aren’t happening your way is not a good reason to leave a body either. If there is movement and momentum and it is in the direction of Jesus, then join in and be a part.

You need to answer the call God has sent to you. What is the burden on your heart? How can you be an effective part of an effective body?

Well, first and foremost, prayer. You need to pray about what your particular piece of God’s “mission” is. Second, carry it out to the best of your ability. Third, pray more. Pray that God will work in you and through you, that He will use you beyond what you are capable of and into the realm of what He is capable of. I believe the results will be amazing.

Want to learn more about GOing with the body (The Ridge) that I belong to? Contact me at rphillips@ridge.tv. Want to learn more about starting a movement with your own body? Contact me. I’d love to help you figure it out and get started. Also, check out “Barefoot Church” by Brandon Hatmaker and “Missional Moves” by Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder. Two awesome resources for inspiration and motivation. These two books have rock my world and pour gasoline on the fire God ignited in me this year.


A Calling…

Dear friends and family,

I’d like to share with you a new way that God has chosen to use me.  It is through a trip that I am going to take that will hopefully be a life changing experience for the people I come in contact with, as well as myself.

Can you envision a land where poverty, hardship, hunger and a lack of resources both spiritually and physically keep many from hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  I want to share with you a challenging ministry opportunity God has presented to me.  During August 4th -11th, I will be going to Peru with a team from The Ridge Church and LifePoint Church.  Our one-week trip will focus on coming along side the people of a few small villages in Peru to help them both spiritually and materially.  If we can help strengthen and encourage these people then they will be better equipped to carry on the Gospel when we leave. We will be allowing God to work in our lives through the personal enrichment that comes from this type of a mission trip.  I’m certain God will change my life greatly as a result of stepping out to serve Him in this important area.

I’m so excited about the opportunities and experiences that lie ahead.  This trip is a calling that has been heavy on my heart for some time now and I believe God will use me and the others on this trip in a mighty way.  I hope you see the value in what we will accomplish.  As you can imagine, a trip like this requires financial support from a number of people.  In order to go on this mission trip I need to raise $1,200 by July 1st.  If you can support me in a financial way, I would be very grateful.  Any money raised above this amount will be donated to help some of the others on the team to meet their goal.  And, most importantly, I also need your prayer support.  Prayer is the fuel that will allow us to be successful as we follow God’s leading in our ministry in Peru.  Without prayer, little, or nothing will happen.

If you would like to be part of this mission through your financial support, you can send a check to: 4998 Clayton Rd Brookville, OH 45309 by July 1st.  Please make your check payable to Rick Phillips. You can also donate through PayPal by clicking HERE or on the “Make A Donation” button in the side bar to the right of your screen.

Thank you so much for prayerfully considering if this is something you’d like to participate in.  May God bless you for your time and support.

Sincerely,
Rick Phillips


When Work and Family Collide

It always fascinates me when an author can take such a large subject and successfully pack it into a short book and still slam home the point so well. Andy Stanley has certainly done this with When Work and Family Collide. This is such an important, but frequently ignored, topic and such a typical trap that we all fall into at times, especially in an era and culture where we have more jockeying for our time and attention than at any other time in history.

Andy does a great job of laying out the ways this can manifest itself in our lives. Then he nails us with what some may consider a shocking conclusion to the balance we all try to achieve between work, home and everything else that is competing for our time and attention. I’ll leave it up to you to find out what that is by reading the book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. I wish I had discovered it earlier in life but I certainly plan to pass it on to others and to use its contents with those I offer counsel.

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.


Covenant or Contract

Check out this great post  below from Justin and Trisha Davis at Refine Us.

When we get married, our vision for marriage is a to have a covenant relationship. We are making a promise. We recite vows. We promise to be there. We promise to love unconditionally. We promise in sickness and in health. We are not signing a contract, we are making a promise. We are reciting a covenant that comes from the depth of our heart. This covenant feels right. This covenant feels holy. This covenant feels ordained.

But something happens to most marriages over time. The unconditional love we promised, starts being conditional. The list of things we loved about our spouse slowly drifts to a list of things that irritate us. We aren’t getting what we are putting in. This isn’t what we signed up for. This isn’t what we agreed to. Our covenant relationship has slowly become a contractual agreement.

Here are some signs your marriage is more of a contract than a covenant:

1. Comparison:

You are so disappointed in who your spouse is that you compare them with someone else. You wish they were more handy like so and so’s husband. You wish they could cook like so and so’s wife. You compare them with someone you work with…they don’t listen that well, understand you that much. The comparison game is a dangerous one to play.

2. If-Then Relationship

You will take out the trash if she will do the laundry. You will pick up the kids from school if she will let get off your back about going golfing. There are conditions attached to sexual intimacy. Conditions attached to time spent together. You keep score and you usually win. No one wins in the if-then marriage. You can never do enough.

3. Walking on Egg-Shells

When you are in a contractual marriage you are constantly worried about starting a fight. You walk on egg shells when you get home from work. You walk on egg shells on the weekends. You’re goal is to get through a day, a weekend, a week without an argument. You know your spouses hot buttons and do everything you can to not push them.

4. Score Keeping

In a contractual marriage you always know the score. You know how many times you’ve served them; you’ve given in; you’ve said you’re sorry; you’ve not gotten you way. You keep score of purchases; arguments and times you’ve given something against your will. Your desire isn’t to experience intimacy with your spouse, but to win the score keeping game. (There is no winner in a score keeping marriage.)

God’s vision for your marriage is a covenant not a contract. He longs to have your relationship with your spouse mirror His relationship with you. When you least deserved it, He sacrificed for you. A covenant is an unconditional promise that has no end.

Maybe the best thing you can do for your marriage today is evaluate which type of relationship you have and which type do you want to have.


Last Minute Shopping…

It’s getting down to the wire and I’m sure many of you are out or online doing some last minute shopping for the Christmas season. Those of you who know me, know how much I dislike the commercialism that has high-jacked this special time of year and continues to grow and suck the meaning and enjoyment from what should be a joyous time (sorry was I ranting again?). Of course one thing I can really get behind when it comes to gift giving is when it really has meaning and is truly a gift from the heart that may even change someones life. Please take a moment to check out the following video and prayerfully consider making a purchase that could really impact someones life.


Missions In Action: Philippines

Missions In Action is an interactive series that was created with the purpose to make a difference in the world. In this episode we follow Alex Boylan on a brief tour of the Philippines and meet some children sponsored by people just like you and me through Compassion International. We also meet a few not sponsored at this time but very much in need. Please take a few minutes out of you schedule to watch this touching video about the life of a few families in the Philippines.

Missions In Action

I know not all of us have the time or resources to go on mission trips but if you can please take some time to check out Compassion International to learn how you could help today.


The Innocence of a Child…

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” -Mark 10:15 NIV

Recently, I was reminded of this verse when I heard about a friend of mine, that home schools her children. This year she started teaching her son about American History. She began a lesson on slavery and was bothered by the look of horror on her sons face as she taught him what we had done to people during that time.

I can only imagine how heart breaking it must be to a child to discover for the first time what we humans are actually capable of. His little heart does not yet have the capacity for the sin that our adults hearts have. I think as we grow older we fall into a kind of complacency with the evil around us. If it even bothers us at all it tends to anger or disgust us more than break our hearts. We become cynical and judgmental rather than empathize or sympathize with people and their struggles. The very behavior that makes us hate other may even be exhibited by us at times.

I know I find myself there very often. I have led quite a sinful life and I came to Christ in my mid-thirties. But, more often than not, instead of using my past experience to have this empathy or sympathy and to help others in need I find myself being disgusted by their behavior. Even though not too long ago I may have very well been walking in their shoes, on the very same path. If only we could keep those innocent eyes to see people with. That innocent, untainted heart to love them with. The same kind of eyes Jesus sees us with. The same kind of heart He loves us with. But, we have to mess it all up with our selfishness and our sinful nature.

We view pornography or fool around with our girlfriends or boyfriends thinking “what’s the big deal?” but all the while we are ruining our thoughts for our future spouses.

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” -Matthew 5:28 NIV

We smoke, drink or over-eat thinking “I can control it!” but it often leads to excessive or gluttonous tendencies, which are sinful.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, …” -Galatians 5:16-26 ESV

We dislike those that are not like us which can lead to out-right hatred.

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” -Matthew 5:22 NIV

I have spoken to various teenagers over the past few years and I’ve tried to explain to them, the opportunity they have to not pollute their minds and souls with the garbage that is out there, all around them. To keep their hearts and eyes as pure and innocent as possible so that when they do encounter this sinful world it might just break their heart rather than anger and disgust them.

This is something God is working on in my life and I ask for your prayers as I will pray for you to either keep yourself from this trap or for you to be pulled from it. I have found the current, “40 Days of Love” message series as well as the Life Groups study lifting me up and challenging me every day so far.

Thank you Father for renewing my heart and eyes so that I can see others as you see them.

-Rick Phillips


Another book that kicked my butt!!!

Over the span of time it took me to read Andy Stanley’s, Enemies of the Heart I have developed a love/hate relationship with the book and the author.

I love the openness Andy displays here. The four emotions that control us, guilt, anger, greed and jealousy, are dead on. This is also the reason I hate the book. Andy does such a great job explaining these enemies of the heart and helping us to see them in ourselves that I found the book kicking my butt all over the place. Of course, I’m sure that’s the point and in time I’ll find a way to thank Andy for helping me to see the enemies and how they have manifested themselves in my heart.

Seriously though, “Enemies of the Heart” has a great message and revelation. We all struggle with some form of each one of these heart conditions and they need to be addressed before we need spiritual CPR. This book will help you discover them in your heart and hopefully, help you perform some heart surgery on yourself.

Plaque can build up and cause blockage in our arteries. This blockage slows blood flow that damages the heart. Just like that plaque, each of the enemies discussed, guilt, anger, greed and jealousy, can build up and cause damage, ultimately blocking the flow of love Jesus intends to feed our hearts with.

Physical heart disease, left unchecked, can lead to physical death. Likewise, left unchecked, spiritual heart disease can lead to the death and destruction of marriages, families, friendships, careers…

Do yourself a favor, get a check up! The best way I know to start is with this book. Make your appointment now and purchase “Enemies of the Heart.” I can’t promise it won’t hurt but it will all be worth it in the end.

Andy Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and the founder of North Point Ministries, Inc. (NPM). Since its inception in 1995,North Point Ministries has grown from one campus to five in the Atlanta area and has helped plant over thirty strategic partner churches globally. Each Sunday, more than twenty-five thousand people attend worship services at one of North Point Ministries’ five campuses. Andy’s books include Communicating for a Change, The Next Generation Leader, How Good is Good Enough?and many more. He lives in Alpharetta, Georgia, with his wife, Sandra, and their three children.

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.


STAYING PURE WHEN WE’RE APART

I consider myself fortunate that my job does not take me away from home. But, I know many families that are not always so lucky. In the past I’ve been away from my wife for extended periods of time and know it can be difficult. When I came across the following post today from Justin Davis at www.refineus.org I knew i had to share it. Please read on and join me in praying for those families that must be separated due to their current or future work situations. Special thanks to Justin for allowing me to share this.


Trisha and I have spent more time apart this summer than we have at any time since our separation five and a half years ago. I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t brought up questions and concerns and conversations. I’ve been free from pornography for almost six years. It no longer has a grip on my heart. But neither of us are stupid either. I’m one choice away from compromising my integrity; my relationship with God; my marriage; my boys. I know that. A lot of people travel. So I thought it would be helpful to share with you some of the things we think through when we’re apart. (If you’re not married yet, most of these principles will apply as well.)

-Recognize I’m in a Battle

There is a battle for my heart. There is a battle for my mind. The Apostle Paul in the New Testament says that, “Satan prowls like a lion, seeking someone to devour.” For so many years, I took this for granted. Purity will not be easy…I will have to fight for it. When Trisha is gone, or when I’m traveling, I am conscious of the battle I’m in. I pray about it. I read Scriptures about it. Knowing you’re in a battle is half the fight.

-Guard my eyes and my heart

I’m pretty selective about the TV shows I watch and the movies I watch anyway. I am very conscious of this when Trisha and I are apart. I’m not trying to be all legalistic or old fogey…but the purity of my heart and the intimacy of my marriage is much more important to me than a TV show or movie. I know that the Enemy can use things I see to trip me up…so I dial up my awareness and my standard when Trisha and I are apart.

-Pray a powerful prayer

One of my favorite Scriptures is a prayer that David prayed, that I pray at least once per day when Trisha and I are in different places. The prayer I pray is, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” When I’m willing to pray this prayer, and truly mean it, I’m allowing God into all of my heart.

Trying not to lust doesn’t work. Trying not to look at pornography doesn’t work. Trying not to do something you know you shouldn’t do never gives you the results you want.

Engage in the battle.

Choose to guard your mind.

Allow God into the darker parts of your heart.

Purity is possible!  

How do you pursue purity when you’re away from your spouse?


How do you communicate?

With all of the choices we have now, communication can actually be more challenging and difficult. It used to be so easy. You called someone and if they weren’t there you called back. Now, there’s texting, email, phone calls, voicemail and a wide range of social media. Laptops, desktops, cell phones, iPods, iPads, all of which can access any of the infinite tools we have to disseminate information and communicate.

With all of these options at our fingertips it’s easy to have messages strewn across 10-20 different apps or programs. This makes it easier to overlook something important and miss out or mess up. I have method to my communications madness. I make no claims that it’s better than any other but it works well for me.

Phone calls/voicemail: If I receive a phone call and the caller does not leave a message I DO NOT return the call. I have had too many negative experiences returning calls from caller ID. I know some people do but I just choose not to. If I call someone else and I don’t leave a message I don’t expect a call back. If it’s important I’ll leave a message or I’ll even text them and ask them to call me when they are free. A lot of the time if I see someone left a voicemail I will call them back without even listening to the message. Weird? Maybe but it’s what I do.

Texting: I typically use this for brief messages. Texting is a wonderful invention for those short little statements or questions. “On my way home”, “what do you want from Wendy’s?”, “call me when u can”, “love you”. If you want to converse with me, call me. I don’t like texting enough to type out long messages. I’d rather just talk on the phone if I have the time.

Twitter: I love Twitter! I use it to gather information mostly. Twitter posts usually need to add value to my life.  If someone I am following posts too much about personal stuff or rants about politics etc. I stop following them.

Facebook: This is a great tool for catching up with old friends and family. It drives me crazy when people use it in place of email. I don’t look at it that much. My Twitter feed updates to my Facebook so it may look like I’m on a lot but I’m not. Also, Facebook seems to like changing my settings so I get flooded with emails from them so I have created an email address that I don’t check or use at all for that account.

Email: Hey, call me old but I still love my email. I forward Tweets to my email so I can look at them later. I email myself notes all the time. I use my email INBOX as my life inbox. If it needs done by me the best way to get me to do it is by sending me an email. For me, email is still the best place to store, sort and search information. I also don’t “play”  with email. My spam filters are set high and if it has FWD in the subject I tend to delete it fast. I love jokes and have a great sense of humor but I just have no time for distractions in my INBOX.

How about you?

 

Addendum: I realized that I left out the most important form of communication TALKING! Often imitated never duplicated. None of the above forms, methods, or tools can replace genuine face-to-face conversation. Tone, inflection, feeling, passion are all important pieces to our communication and none of them can be expressed better than in person.


Scars part 2

In my previous post we reflected on our own scars but what about the scars of others? Often we judge or define others by their scars?

The “monster” in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was misunderstood, feared and hated for how he appeared. Because of his scars (his differences) he was branded a monster. Later in the story he succumbed and actually became the monster others had labeled him.

I fear that we do this to people all the time. I know I’ve been guilty of it. I also know others have done it to me.

“She comes from a broken home so she must be broken.” “He grew up on the wrong side of the tracks so he must be trouble.” How can people be expected to over-come and heal their scars if they are constantly labeled, judged and beat down because of them. We are commanded many times over to love one another. John 13:34 NIV – A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 1 John 3:11 NIV - For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 4:11 NIV –  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. There’s nothing written anywhere in scripture that adds: “…if you want to” or “…only if they’re like minded or the same race or share the same political views.” But we continue to see others as “monsters” if they don’t conform to our standard of normal or if they don’t live up to what WE believe they should be like. We are all created by God for a reason. We should strive to become what God has designed us for not wh

at society or man “expects” of us. Therefore, we should not have our own preconceived design for others other than to become what God is calling them to become.

Now the Bible clearly sets a standard as to how God would have us live our lives and unfortunately many choose to live far from that standard. But it is Gods standard, to be judged by God. We are only to love God and love others. We are formed by the same creator whether we choose to believe it or not. He loves us whether we accept Him or not. He expects the same from us of His creations.

We must love our brothers and sisters, scars and all. What does it say about our love of The Creator if we don’t love His creations?

(Be sure to check out Scars part1 here


Scars part 1

When I joined the US Army in 1987 we went through a physical exam where they asked if we had any scars. This was evidently for use in identifying your body should it be rendered unidentifiable by other means.

For some reason I started thinking about that the other day. Do my scars identify me or do I allow God to shape me from them? Maybe you were abused or neglected as a child. Maybe you’re a victim of sexual assault or abuse. Whatever the case may be we are all left with scars big or small from our past in some way, shape or form. But how do we handle them? Do we let ourselves be defined or identified by our scars or do we use the scars to shape us into something more? Do we remain victims? Do we hide from the scars or hide them from others in shame? I think all too often this is the case.

I have emotional scars from my past as well as physical ones. One in particular, physical one, is on my forehead. I have carried this scar since the age of 1 year. It is from an act of disobedience and defiance towards my mother. As the story was told to me, I had recently learned to walk and was out on a bright sunny day with my mom. I evidently decided I could walk just fine on my own without any assistance. My mother felt otherwise and requested that I wait for her and hold her hand. I then decided to use the first word I had learned “NO” at this point I fell and discovered a rock lying on the sidewalk, with my forehead. Now, I did not let this scar define me as a defiant or ignorant little boy but I allowed it to shape me a little. I learned, somewhat, at least at that moment, from the experience that I could not always do things on my own. I see this scar every day when I look in the mirror. I use it as a reminder that I often need help (something I’m, sometimes bad at admitting.)

The emotional scars we all carry can and should be used in the same way. We need to take those scars and the things we have learned from them and use that not only to better ourselves but to benefit others.

Who better to help victims of abuse but other victims of abuse? In many ways a drug addict or alcoholic, post treatment, can relate better to another that is struggling with the same and offer real and practical advice.

Our history is our story. If we let it, it can shape and mold us for the future rather than define, identify or even chain us with the past. God can use our past… good, bad or ugly… smart or stupid, to His glory and the benefit of others if we just open ourselves up to it and pray that he will. I challenge you today to allow Him to use you this way. Let me know how it turns out.

(Be sure to check out Scars part2 here


Courageous

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a pre-screening of a movie with my with my wonderful wife, Jenni (yay date night). “Courageous” is from the makers of last years “Fireproof”. Also, “Facing the Giants” and “Flywheel”. I have always enjoyed their movies but I have to say I was not prepared for last night. I was absolutely blown away.  I can honestly say this movie was the best movie I have ever seen. There is over-the-top, marked improvement in filming and acting on all levels. But also, the films over-all message was amazing and dead-on. In the span of the movie Jenni and I ran a gambit of feelings, excitement, fear, caring, anger, hope, loss, love, compassion, even humor, it’s all there.

While the movie is from a Christian organization, I felt, that they worked hard to and achieved a blend of the elements of a fallen, corrupt world without compromising the integrity of their core beliefs. This film proves that you can have high quality action and drama without all of the sex, extreme violence and foul language that is so typical these days in movies. All too often in Hollywood these elements seem forced into a script just to attain a different rating and increase potential ticket sales when the film would do fine, maybe even better without it.

All too often “Christian based” films have come across as cheesy or preachy. Courageous does not. There is a strong and firm stance of the underlying message but again it is blended well with the whole script. No one can deny message supported by the film that men need to step up as fathers and husbands. We all fall short of what we should be. Through the five main characters men will find themselves relating on multiple levels with each of them in their fears, failures and victories.

Big things will happen when Courageous releases September 30th. I for one intend to be prepared. This film needs to be shared with our friends and families. The message in it is all too important to miss out on.  You can learn more about Courageous at www.courageousmovie.com or ask me by commenting here or by email.


Life Without Limits

Every once in a while I read a book and I get the sense that I know what it’s all about before I’m through the first few pages. That’s exactly how I felt with “Life Without Limits” by Nick Vujicic (pronounced Voy-a-chich) <yeah I always wondered too>. But something drew me in and compelled me to keep reading. Nick’s outlook on life and the stories he tells in this book are amazing testimonies to God and His ability to use us for His glory.

Nick Vujicic was born with no arms and no legs. He does have a left foot of sorts that he quite capable with. I expected more of an inside peek into Nick’s life and how he grew up but what this book offers is a look into his and others souls. The amazing things that God has been able to accomplish through this young man are an inspiration. He also introduces us to some other inspiring individuals that he has been blessed to meet and know through his travels and shows us how God is using them too.

I love to see examples of God at work around us in everyday life and that work is apparent in Nick and those he has been blessed to reach. I saw him speak once on TV and was quite impressed by his mobility but more so by his attitude which he spreads around the world through his speaking tours as well as from the pages of this book. Some may feel sorry for him but I have to say I’m a bit jealous and embarrassed. I’m 40 years old and have all of my limbs and I haven’t done a fraction of the things he’s done. Not just the exciting, dare-devil things like surfing and scuba diving but more importantly, the God-driven outreach and mission work that Nick has done.

Nick shows us what it is to really be the hands and feet of Jesus and he doesn’t have any of his own.

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.


How Good Is Good Enough?

All good people go to Heaven, right? What classifies as good? What percentage of good do I need in my life to counter-balance the bad? How many of the Ten Commandments do I really need to keep, if any? Who makes the final call? Did Mother Teresa throw of the cosmic grading curve for us all? These and many more questions are explored in Andy Stanley’s book “How Good Is Good Enough?”

If you’ve always or never asked these questions or never truly explored the answers I urge you to take a moment out of your schedule to read this book. Come on, it’ll take less than two hours. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

This little book is a short read but I pray that for many, it will have an eternal impact. Andy Stanley has done a tremendous job of compiling, simplifying and condensing the hurdles a person most often faces in accepting Jesus as their savior. In only 92 pages many questions are explored and answered and in the end the big secret is revealed… “What does it really take to get to Heaven?”

For the Christian this material is, hopefully, nothing new. It is however a new and refreshing way to view it and to relay it to others.

This is a great tool for anyone wishing to speak to others about Christ. I just learned that our church has ordered 60 copies to give to first time guests. I’ super excited to see the Kingdom impact that will have. I also can’t wait to pass my copy on to a list of people that I have been praying for, for quite some time now.

Andy Stanley serves as senior pastor of the campuses of North Point Ministries, including North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia; Buckhead Church in Atlanta, Georgia; and Browns Bridge Community Church in Cumming, Georgia. Each Sunday, more than twenty thousand attend one of these NPM campuses. Andy is the bestselling author of Visioneering, The Next Generation Leader, It Came from Within!, and How Good Is Good Enough? Andy and his wife, Sandra, have two sons and a daughter.

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.


Forgotten God

As you can see from the majority of my posts I like to read and share about the books. I tend not to buy books these days since I have a large selection from the publishers I do reviews for. I do tend to pick books that peak my interest and “Forgotten God” is no exception to the peaked my interest category however I did buy this book. <GASP> Yes, I parted with $14.99 and made this purchase but now that I have finished the book I believe that it was very much due to a prompting from The Holy Spirit.

<Double GASP>”did he say the Holy Spirit told him to buy a book? Oh, great, now he’s really lost his mind!” Say what you will but this book by Francis Chan is turning my world upside down. I can’t even give him the credit. It is from an opening of his life to the Spirit that even put these words on paper.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe all of the books in my previous postings are God and Spirit inspired and the authors have truly embraced and obeyed the calling of the Spirit. But, Forgotten God has helped me to better understand how to put all of that and all of this “Jesus stuff” into perspective. The perspective that I believe God intended.

I love to tell my story as well as hear other’s testimonies to how their lives have changed through an acceptance of Jesus Christ as their saviour.  Now, I better understand why though. It’s because a these stories are a testimony to an amazing God. They are evidence of the Holy Spirit acting in people’s lives.

We all too often take or give credit to those performing some act or feat when in fact the credit goes to the one who gave them that gift or ability in the first place. The glory goes to the Holy Spirit in them. I’m not here to debate the Trinity either. (just read the book) Jesus Himself told the disciples in John 16:7  “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” The Counselor He speaks of is the Holy Spirit promised in John 14:16-17 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

I’m also not hear to “officially review” this book I am simply responding to a calling to pass on this knowledge as Francis Chan has done in writing the book. I know the words “Holy Spirit” raise concern or caution for many people but just read the book and you’ll understand. Here’s a tasty quote that should smack us all upside the head…

“You would think that learning more about God would be a good thing… and it can be. But when we gain knowledge about God without responding to Him or assimilating His truths into our lives, then it is not  a good thing. According to the Bible it’s sin.”

So, trust me get this book and read it! You can find it anywhere. And, thank you Holy Spirit for inspiring and engaging Francis Chan and all those involved in “Forgotten God.” To God be the glory.


Soulprint

Author and Pastor Mark Batterson knocks another one out the park with “SoulPrint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny.”

There never has been and never will be anyone quite like you. But that isn’t a testament to you. It’s a testament to the God who created you. Unfortunately, many of us go through most or all of our lives without discovering our unique God-given identity or “soulprint.” In this book Mark takes on a journey with King David that helps us to reveal our own soulprints.

In a world where we are told what and how to be by  television, magazines and movies every time we turn around, “Soulprint” encourages us to be unique, just as we were created. There’s no denying that David was a unique individual. Just as God created him He has created each and every one of us as a unique person on a life mission that is as unique as we are. To lead a life that does not pursue this mission that has been designed especially for us is to waste a life that was important enough to the Creator to be given in the first place. Our acceptance or denial of this mission not only affects our own lives but it affects the lives of those God has put around us.

A legacy has been left for you to fulfill. Discovering and using your “soulprint” will help you to better understand yourself and to be more God-honoring and obedient in all that you do. I challenge you to read this book and walk away the same.

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church (www.theaterchurch.com) in Washington, D.C. NCC was recognized as one of the most innovative and influential churches in America by Outreach Magazine in 2008. One church with ten services in six locations, NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the D.C. area. NCC also owns and operates thelargest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill, Ebenezers, which was recently recognized as the #1 coffeehouse in the metro D.C. area by AOL CityGuide. He is a daily blogger at http://www.markbatterson.com and the author of the bestselling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Wild Goose Chase, and Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. Mark and his wife, Lora, live on Capitol Hill with their three children.

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.


Love and War Devotional for Couples

Let’s be honest, marriage is difficult at times. Early in our Christian walk together my wife and I were blessed to have friends strong in faith that suggested praying and doing devotionals together. We started with an excellent couples devotional truly inspired and inspiring. However, we soon discovered that book was a minority among couples devotionals. The others we came across were just… ok, and nothing like the first one, until now. “Love & War” by John and Stasi Eldredge has ranked up there with us.

John & Stasi Eldredge

The Eldredge’s have compiled a devotional for couples that is not only inspiring and thought provoking but challenging and confirming. Aptly named “Love & War”, this book captures many of the struggles and victories that we have encountered in our 22 years and helps to reveal how God can, does and will use our differences as men and women to compliment and enhance each others lives. I often strongly urge couples to pray and study God’s word together and this is a good book to help guide you through that. I do feel I have to warn you though. As with anything good in your life or marriage the enemy hates it and will throw challenges your way as you take this journey together. We take that as an indicator that we are on to something good and trust in God to protect us and guide us through it as He has done once again.

So, take the plunge and check out this book, you won’t be sorry.

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.


Guest blogging

I’m over here this week. Check out the group blog project I took part in for Less Clutter Less Noise by Kem Meyer. An excellent book on communications.


Modern Day Plague

I came across the poem below on Tim Challies’ blog. It is an amazing yet frightening look into a devastating problem in our world. An epidemic that is commonly ignored and seldom talked about. A plague that wrecks more individuals and families lives than we may ever know. This poem speaks volumes from the side of the often overlooked victims of this horrific affliction.

“I Looked For Love in Your Eyes.”

I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,
I looked for it in your eyes
Mere inches from mine.
But what I saw made my soul run and hide.

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know
I saw a stranger, cold and hard
Distant, evil, revolting.
I looked for love in your eyes
And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?
Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?
I don’t matter.
I’m a prop in a filthy play.
Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass
But the hardness in your eyes does not.
You think I’m cold
But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else
Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.
I’ve seen the pictures.
I know now what it takes to turn you on.
Women…people like me
Tortured, humiliated, hated, used
Discarded.
Images burned into your brain.
How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,
The first time you picked up a dirty picture
That you were dooming all intimacy between us
Shipwrecking your marriage
Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

If it stopped here, I could bear it.
But you brought the evil into our home
And our little boys found it.
Six and eight years old.
I heard them laughing, I found them ogling.

Hands bound, mouth gagged.
Fisheye photo, contorting reality
Distorting the woman into exaggerated breasts.
The haunted eyes, windows of a tormented soul
Warped by the lens into the background,
Because souls don’t matter, only bodies do
To men who consume them.

Little boys
My little boys
Laughing and ogling the sexual torture
Of a woman, a woman like me.
Someone like me.

An image burned into their brains.

Will their wives’ souls have to run and hide like mine does?
When does it end?

I can tell you this. It has not ended in your soul.
It has eaten you up. It is cancer.
Do you think you can feed on a diet of hatred
And come out of your locked room to love?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth
When hatred rules in your heart.
Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man
I thought I was marrying.
Did you ever dream it would so consume you
That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become
Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.
But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?

If you are struggling with porn, or seeking to help someone who is, there is help:

Some free resources below:

The above material was originally listed at thegospelcoalition.org.

Another great resource is heartsupport.com. Please be aware and beware of this evil affliction that is decimating lives and relationships young and old


Do you know your chazown?

You were born with your own Chazown. Do you know what it is? First off we need to define the word. Chazown: (pronounced khaw-ZONE) from the Hebrew, meaning a dream, revelation, or vision. Now check out Craig Groeschel’s book “Chazown, Define Your Vision. Pursue Your Passion. Live Your Life on Purpose” for help finding your own personal chazown.

I have been truly inspired and challenged by Craig Groeshel’s preaching and the vision he has been given for LifeChurch. Their willingness to share the gifts, knowledge and creativity that God has given them is a lesson for all churches. But, I had not yet read any of Craig’s books until now. “Chazown” does not disappoint. Craig takes the reader through an easy, step by step of discovering God’s vision for your life that works for all, young or old, new or long time believer. “Chazown” is challenging, inspiring and affirming. I’ve read a lot of books on discovering purpose and I can’t find anything Craig missed in this journey.

Each of us has a chazown, as it has been said before “God don’t make junk.” He has created every one of us with a purpose in life whether we choose to discover that purpose and seize it is entirely up to us. “Chazown” can certainly be that next step for you.

For a brief word from Craig on “Chazown” watch the video below.

Thank you Craig for listening and obeying your chazown in writing this book. God Bless.

FTC DISCLAIMER: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.


Make a Difference…

So I have decided that my mantra for 2011 is “Be bolder in everything.” I’ll write more on that later, but one of the ways I intend to be bolder is in helping others not just within my circle of influence but outside it as well. With that in mind I am looking through the Gifts of Compassion Catalog trying to decide what I will purchase. If you haven’t seen it yet or heard of it please take a moment and check it out. For as little as $10 you can help make a difference in someones life. Also, take the time to pray and consider sponsoring a child at Compassion International. All it takes is $38 dollars a month to change a life forever.


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